Why do we Carve those Scary Pumpkins?

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Halloween History

Why do we carve scary faces into pumpkins at Halloween and call them Jack-O-Lanterns anyway? The reason stretches back into the mists of time to the ancient Celtic religion.

Before it was Halloween, October 31st was the Pagan holiday of Samhain(pronounced sow-in), the official end of summer and the harvest season. When Christianity came to Ireland and Scotland, it simply co-opted the three day festival of Samhain and folded it into All Hallow's Eve, (October 31st), All Saints Day ( November 1st) and All Souls day. ( November 2nd)

In Ireland children carved out potatoes or turnips as "Jack-O-Lanterns" and lighted them from the inside with candles. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." who invited the Devil to have a drink with him and then didn't want to pay for his drink. It's a long story, but the bottom line is that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing up a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While the devil was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the he could not come down until he promised not to bother Jack for ten more years. Soon thereafter, Jack died and God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. So Jack was condemned to wander the earth between heaven and hell with only a burning piece of coal in a carved out turnip to light his way.

It's a story that came to America with hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants in the mid nineteenth century. In America, pumpkins were cheaper and more readily available than turnips, but carving them and making them in to Jack-O-Lanterns lit by a candle inside became an American tradition as Halloween was enthusiastically adopted in the New World by people from every possible ethnic background.

Enjoy Halloween and be glad your not carving potatoes or turnips! Send us your best pictures of pumpkins and other decorations this Halloween.

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